Two days ago, a group of political, intellectual and cultural leaders from across the world issued a report containing the secret to the widening gap between the allegedly monolithic entities known as “the West” and “the Muslim world”.
The group, known as the Fourth High Level Group of the Alliance of Civilizations, consists of 20 eminent persons including a Catholic historian, the Jewish adviser to the Moroccan King, the former Iranian President, an Anglican Archbishop and even a New York Rabbi.
The Group has been deliberating over the nature and causes of the alleged clash of civilisations. It was set up as a joint initiative of the Turkish Prime Minister and the Spanish PM some 6 months after the Madrid bombing by Islamist extremists that killed 191 people in 2004.
The Spanish PM, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, could easily have followed the lead of other Western nations and invaded countries deemed to be linked to terrorism. Instead, he withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq and initiated a process to get to the root causes and grievances which terrorists exploit.
The final report was released at the Group’s meeting in Istanbul , Turkey . And their conclusion? Here’s what Kofi Annan had to say:
… the problem is not the Koran, nor the Torah or the Bible … the problem is never the faith – it is the faithful, and how they behave towards each other.
Although religion is often exploited to support alarmist claims that the planet will soon face an apocalyptic religious war, the real root of the matter is … wait for it … politics!
The most intractable source of conflict has been perceived double standards by many Western powers in their approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Also mentioned were Western military occupations in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq .
All this confirms research conducted by Professor Robert Pape of the Chicago Project for Suicide Terrorism. Pape argues that the real problem lies not with religion or religious fundamentalism. His study of all “successful” suicide attacks shows that the common thread was foreign occupation of particular land. But don’t expect John Howard to embrace such hard realities in a hurry. He’s still waiting for orders from the White House …
© Irfan Yusuf 2006